We talked with Beeple about how NFT mania led to his $69 million art sale

  • A piece of digital artwork by Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, sold for nearly $70 million last week.
  • Digital art backed by non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are exploding in popularity and value, and Beeple is riding the wave.
  • In an exclusive interview, Beeple told Insider about his unexpected fortune and the future of NFTs.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, has sold the most expensive work of digital art in history.

It’s part of an explosion in the market for NFTs, or non-fungible tokens – digital tokens that prove ownership of things like Beeple’s image that you can’t even touch.

“I honestly, like, I never thought I could sell my work,” Beeple said in an interview at his home in South Carolina. “Kind of late September, early October, people kept hitting me on being like, ‘Oh, you got to look at this NFT thing.'”

Two months later, in December, he netted $3.5 million selling art backed by NFTs.

In March, Christie’s, a 225-year-old auction house that previously only sold physical art, auctioned an entirely digital piece by Beeple. It sold for $69,346,250.

“If everybody wants it, well, then it has value,” Beeple said.

The speculation in this market is so wild that when a $95,000 Banksy piece was recently burned and turned into an NFT, the NFT was sold for nearly $400,000. A cat meme recently sold for $600,000. To understand who’s paying these prices, it’s important to understand NFTs.

“I really look at NFTs as like a blank slate,” he said. “And so it’s sort of like saying, do you think a webpage is valuable? Well, I don’t know. It could be, or it could be totally worthless.”

NFT stands for non-fungible token, essentially a digital signature backed by blockchain technology that proves ownership of something.

Unlike Bitcoin, which are all identical by design, NFTs are unique. To some degree, what NFTs offer for sale is the idea of scarcity. It’s possible to buy a token that represents art in the physical world, but NFTs also back digital assets like an image or a tweet.

“So May 1, 2007, I started doing a sketch a day, every single day, start to finish, and uploading it online,” Winkelmann said. “And after a year of that, I learned a lot about drawing. Like, I got much better at drawing. I was still very, very bad, as you can see from the Christie’s piece. But I learned a lot.”

Beeple_THUMB_V1
Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple.

Beeple’s popularity caught the attention of Christie’s in December. They decided on a collage of his first 5,000 days of work that forms a square of 21,069 x 21,069 pixels. To help make his digital art more accessible, back in December, Beeple provided a physical product along with the NFT for his digital art. But for Christie’s, being completely digital is what made Beeple’s work unique – and all the more valuable.

“It’s really a radical gesture to offer for sale something without any object, and we might as well lean into that,” said Noah Davis, specialist in Post-War & Contemporary Art at Christie’s.

In the media, Beeple has been compared to artists like Banksy and Warhol, though his paid work has been as a graphic designer, with clients like Louis Vuitton, Nike and Apple.

“So I don’t really like the term artist because it sounds very pretentious and douche-y,” Beeple said.

“There’s an interesting parallel between Mike and Andy Warhol in the way that their careers developed,” Davis said. “Andy also started as an illustrator working in, basically, a gig economy.”

Critics have compared him with artists like Warhol, Banksy, and the Italian artist who taped a banana to the wall of a Paris art gallery.

“I’ve been thinking about the banana a lot, talking a lot about the banana,” Davis said. “It’s the dumbest idea, and you are basically celebrating a lack of creativity, like the bare minimum of creativity, but with Mike, it’s a ritual assignment of value that is celebrating 13 years of hard work of him doing this for no financial gain.”

For Beeple, the pace of change has been mind blowing. Back in the olden days of 2020, Beeple’s NFT-backed “Crossroads” sold for $66,666.

“At the time it was like, oh my God, I sold a piece for 66,000,” Beeple said. “It was just, like, insane.”

In December, he sold $3.5 million worth of art in one day. Then, on February 26, Crossroads was resold on a secondary NFT market for $6.6 million, of which Beeple got a 10% cut.

Then in March, Christie’s sold the 5,000 image montage by Beeple for $69.3 million.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A piece of NFT art just auctioned for a record-breaking $69 million. NFT artists making millions say the craze could permanently change the art world

Bitcoin Angel open edition
Part of “The​ Bitcoin Angel” from Trevor Jones.

  • NFTs have been shaking up the art world, and auction house Christie’s has already found success pivoting.
  • NFT artist Trevor Jones says traditional art markets could become obsolete in the face of NFTs.
  • Mike Winkelmann of Beeple says galleries will end up pivoting to cater to this emerging market.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

NFT art has suddenly dominated headlines across the world, and it’s impact on the “traditional” art scene may be here to stay.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are more straightforward than they sound. Basically, a NFT provides blockchain-backed “proof of ownership” on an item that the token is attached to. This could be anything, from the Nyan Cat meme to virtual NBA “moments” to an upcoming album from Kings of Leon.

Mainstream players like Grimes and Mark Cuban are also getting in on the NFT scene.

“I have a feeling it’s only going to get a lot bigger!” Trevor Jones, an artist who has an educational background in fine arts with a focus on drawing and painting, told Insider in an interview. “Ride that crypto wave!”

Jones, who has been a full-time artist since 2015, considers himself a “traditional painter,” but has been interested in the intersection between art and technology for the past decade, including exploring the NFT art space since 2019.

In homage to his training, all of Jones’ NFT work still begins as a traditional “physical” painting. And so far, this formula has been finding him massive success: His artwork has been selling for between $40,000 to $180,000 each, Jones told Insider.

And last month, he sold 4,157 pieces of his “open edition Bitcoin Angel” in seven minutes for $777 each, amounting to a total $3.2 million.

Despite his background of “traditional” art, Jones predicts this wave of NFT artists could defunct the longstanding art market.

“This digital art market is only getting warmed up and it could quite easily take over the $67 billion (physical) art market in the not too distant future,” Jones told Insider in an email interview. “The traditional art markets, galleries, and auction houses that don’t see this and don’t prepare will become obsolete in 10 to 15 years.”

tom hanks beating the shit out of coronavirus
Part of “Tom Hanks beating the shit out of coronavirus” by Mike Winkelmann, otherwise known as “Beeple.”

Mike Winkelmann – also known as Beeple, a wildly successful digital NFT artist with sales and resales amounting to millions of dollars – thinks galleries will in fact cater to this emerging market.

As Winkelmann explains it, entities like museums and auction houses are “gatekeepers” and curators of the art world. And as the NFT world grows, so will the “noise” that comes with being able “quite cheaply or easily” produce art.

“I still think you’re going to want other people to cut through the noise and show them cool things,” Winkelmann told Insider. “I really don’t think this is going to be the end of galleries or the end of some level of curation.”

For traditional galleries, this pivot could be replacing framed artwork with hanging video screens that will display these new digital works, an idea Winkelmann is already exploring.

Sergio Scalet of Hackatao, a pop NFT art duo based in Italy, also believes both curators and art experts will be essential in this emerging scene in order to tell the works’ stories. Scalet believes this could create a meeting place between the NFT and traditional art worlds.

“Probably in the beginning, the traditional art world will be on defense, but as we can see from the creation of many new technologies and apps, the bridge [between the two] is happening,” Scalet told Insider. “Maybe these older entities [like galleries] should adapt and find a way to exist in this new space.”

And it seems like the traditional art world is already rapidly pivoting. Previously, these works of (often digital) art would have likely been rejected by old, standing art spaces. Now, traditionalists are scrambling to get a piece of the NFT art pie.

This includes Christie’s, which put Winkelmann’s “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” up for auction in Februrary. The art piece is the famed auction house’s first digital art sale and its first auction to accept cryptocurrency, specifically Ether.

The piece was sitting at $3.5 million on March 5. By the auction’s conclusion on March 11, the digital art sold for $69,346,250, making Winkelmann “among the top three most valuable living artists,” Christie’s announced in a tweet.

"Everydays: The First 5000 Days" by Beeple is up for auction on Christies' website
“Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by Beeple is up for auction on the Christie’s website

The general art world’s growing receptiveness to digital – and NFT – art is now being noticed by people who’ve been integrated in the community for much longer.

“No shade, but there’s a lot of people [in the traditional art world] who would have never worked with us before we were in the NFT space,” Mark Sabb, founder of artist collective Felt Zine, told Insider in an interview. “They’re like gallerists and people we looked up to understanding they would never want to work with us, represent us, or really communicate with us deeply at all, who [are now doing so].”

Felt Zine was founded about a decade ago to “give voice” to art that likely wouldn’t be embraced by traditional galleries or museums.

Felt, which has always been deeply integrated in the digital art scene, was initially approached by artists who wanted the collective to enter the NFT space. These artists – which Sabb calls “early adopters of NFT” – then began asking Felt for sales representation and “crypto art exhibitions.”

Now, the collective is directly seeing the success in this recent NFT art boom: Its month-to-month sales volume has shot up 500% since mid-December 2020, Sabb told Insider.

Felt is also taking the idea of traditional art galleries and applying it to the online community by creating digital galleries and museums to showcase its artists’ work.

It’s a “new mode of experiencing this art,” Sabb says.

Bear Land by Mark Sabb for Felt Zine (2020) NFT art cryptoart
Part of “Bear Land” by Mark Sabb for Felt Zine.

However, Sabb doesn’t expect galleries to go defunct if they don’t pivot to this NFT boom due to the inherent differences in business models. Also, many collectors still collect both traditional and NFT art, a trend Sabb says will continue to grow.

“I think that artists feeling empowered may change the relationship that they have with some gallerists, similar to the ways streaming impacted the music industry, for good and bad,” Sabb said. “But ultimately, we’re probably looking at a reality where we have a thriving NFT space while the traditional art galleries continue to sell art the ways they always have.”

Sabb also notes that some art is better viewed in a typical gallery, while others fare stronger in a digital gallery space. However, he still has his concerns.

“I think there’s a reality where the NFT space can create more pressure for galleries to become increasingly controlling of the artists they represent if we’re not careful,” Sabb said. “So yes, it can be liberating, but we have to purposely work towards that.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

NFT artists who are making millions on their creations say the craze could permanently change the traditional art world

Bitcoin Angel open edition
Part of “The​ Bitcoin Angel” from Trevor Jones.

  • NFTs have been shaking up the art world, and traditionalists like Christie’s have already pivoted.
  • NFT artist Trevor Jones says traditional art markets could become obsolete in the face of NFTs.
  • Mike Winkelmann of Beeple says galleries will end up pivoting to cater to this emerging market.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

NFT art has suddenly dominated headlines across the world, and it’s impact on the “traditional” art scene may be here to stay.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are more straightforward than they sound. Basically, a NFT provides blockchain-backed “proof of ownership” on an item that the token is attached to. This could be anything, from the Nyan Cat meme to virtual NBA “moments” to an upcoming album from Kings of Leon.

Mainstream players like Grimes and Mark Cuban are also getting in on the NFT scene.

“I have a feeling it’s only going to get a lot bigger!” Trevor Jones, an artist who has an educational background in fine arts with a focus on drawing and painting, told Insider in an interview. “Ride that crypto wave! 

Jones, who has been a full-time artist since 2015, considers himself a “traditional painter,” but has been interested in the intersection between art and technology for the past decade, including exploring the NFT art space since 2019.

In homage to his training, all of Jones’ NFT work still begins as a traditional “physical” painting. And so far, this formula has been finding him massive success: His artwork has been selling for between $40,000 to $180,000 each, Jones told Insider.

And last month, he sold 4,157 pieces of his “open edition Bitcoin Angel” in seven minutes for $777 each, amounting to a total $3.2 million.

Despite his background of “traditional” art, Jones predicts this wave of NFT artists could defunct the longstanding art market.

“This digital art market is only getting warmed up and it could quite easily take over the $67 billion (physical) art market in the not too distant future,” Jones told Insider in an email interview. “The traditional art markets, galleries, and auction houses that don’t see this and don’t prepare will become obsolete in 10 to 15 years.”

tom hanks beating the shit out of coronavirus
Part of “Tom Hanks beating the shit out of coronavirus” by Mike Winkelmann, otherwise known as “Beeple.”

Mike Winkelmann – also known as Beeple, a wildly successful digital NFT artist with sales and resales amounting to millions of dollars – thinks galleries will in fact cater to this emerging market.

As Winkelmann explains it, entities like museums and auction houses are “gatekeepers” and curators of the art world. And as the NFT world grows, so will the “noise” that comes with being able “quite cheaply or easily” produce art.

“I still think you’re going to want other people to cut through the noise and show them cool things,” Winkelmann told Insider. “I really don’t think this is going to be the end of galleries or the end of some level of curation.”

For traditional galleries, this pivot could be replacing framed artwork with hanging video screens that will display these new digital works, an idea Winkelmann is already exploring.

Sergio Scalet of Hackatao, a pop NFT art duo based in Italy, also believes both curators and art experts will be essential in this emerging scene in order to tell the works’ stories. Scalet believes this could create a meeting place between the NFT and traditional art worlds. 

“Probably in the beginning, the traditional art world will be on defense, but as we can see from the creation of many new technologies and apps, the bridge [between the two] is happening,” Scalet told Insider. “Maybe these older entities [like galleries] should adapt and find a way to exist in this new space.”

And it seems like the traditional art world is already rapidly pivoting. Previously, these works of (often digital) art would have likely been rejected by old, standing art spaces. Now, traditionalists are scrambling to get a piece of the NFT art pie.

For example, in February, Christie’s listed Winkelmann’s “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days.” This will be the famed auction house’s first digital art sale and its first auction to accept cryptocurrency, specifically Ether.

The piece was sitting at $3.5 million as of March 5, and the auction is set to conclude on March 11.

"Everydays: The First 5000 Days" by Beeple is up for auction on Christies' website
“Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by Beeple is up for auction on the Christie’s website

The general art world’s growing receptiveness to digital – and NFT – art is now being noticed by people who’ve been integrated in the community for much longer.

“No shade, but there’s a lot of people [in the traditional art world] who would have never worked with us before we were in the NFT space,” Mark Sabb, founder of artist collective Felt Zine, told Insider in an interview. “They’re like gallerists and people we looked up to understanding they would never want to work with us, represent us, or really communicate with us deeply at all, who [are now doing so].”

Felt Zine was founded about a decade ago to “give voice” to art that likely wouldn’t be embraced by traditional galleries or museums.

Felt, which has always been deeply integrated in the digital art scene, was initially approached by artists who wanted the collective to enter the NFT space. These artists – which Sabb calls “early adopters of NFT” – then began asking Felt for sales representation and “crypto art exhibitions.”

Now, the collective is directly seeing the success in this recent NFT art boom: Its month-to-month sales volume has shot up 500% since mid-December 2020, Sabb told Insider.

Felt is also taking the idea of traditional art galleries and applying it to the online community by creating digital galleries and museums to showcase its artists’ work.

It’s a “new mode of experiencing this art,” Sabb says.

Bear Land by Mark Sabb for Felt Zine (2020) NFT art cryptoart
Part of “Bear Land” by Mark Sabb for Felt Zine.

However, Sabb doesn’t expect galleries to go defunct if they don’t pivot to this NFT boom due to the inherent differences in business models. Also, many collectors still collect both traditional and NFT art, a trend Sabb says will continue to grow.

“I think that artists feeling empowered may change the relationship that they have with some gallerists, similar to the ways streaming impacted the music industry, for good and bad,” Sabb said. “But ultimately, we’re probably looking at a reality where we have a thriving NFT space while the traditional art galleries continue to sell art the ways they always have.”

Sabb also notes that some art is better viewed in a typical gallery, while others fare stronger in a digital gallery space. However, he still has his concerns.

“I think there’s a reality where the NFT space can create more pressure for galleries to become increasingly controlling of the artists they represent if we’re not careful,” Sabb said. “So yes, it can be liberating, but we have to purposely work towards that.”

Read the original article on Business Insider